Location St. Charles, MO
Size 90,000 ft²
Completed 2008
Program Office space, research laboratories, employee and customer training center, fitness center, cafeteria

It’s a sign of greener times that clients, not just architects or developers, are seeking a sustainability certification even stronger than LEED Platinum. Novus International, the global provider of animal health and nutrition solutions, wanted to reach ‘platinum’ status not just for its building, but for its new headquarters’ entire site, says Don Vondriska, a retired Novus employee who served as a consultant on the project in St. Charles, Missouri. The company eventually found the perfect solution in the relatively new Sustainable Sites Initiative, or SITES.

SITES, developed by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and the United States Botanic Garden, offers voluntary guidelines for land design, construction, and maintenance to create sustainable landscapes. The rating system parallels LEED in certain areas—using regional materials, reducing waste, and minimizing energy use—but was designed for outdoor areas.

The Novus headquarters became one of three pilot projects chosen from more than 150 submittals to provide the earliest tests of the SITES guidelines, and the company made the most of it. “We applied for every category that SITES had,” Vondriska says. “We worked . . . to test the breadth of the certification.” As a result, the landscape at Novus earned three out of four stars, making it the top-rated project among the three that have been certified.

In addition to its sleek, daylit open spaces, the Novus headquarters features a fully equipped gym, exercise classes, and an on-site cafeteria that offers healthful options at no cost to employees.

Interacting with the environment

A chance encounter introduced Novus to the SITES certification process. Vondriska and Novus president and CEO Thad Simons were attending a dinner at which the company was receiving an award for the new building; they eventually struck up a conversation with Hunter Beckham, ASLA, PSA, a principal at landscapes firm SWT Design. Beckham served on the board that developed the SITES guidelines and suggested that Novus pursue the certification. The company did so, hiring Beckham’s firm to lead the effort.


Client Novus International
Architect Forum Studio
Landscape Architect SWT Design
General Contractor Clayco

The result is a nine-acre campus that features an impressive number of diverse habitats and environments, complete with numerous species of wildlife and native, drought-resistant vegetation that doesn’t require irrigation. In fact, native habitats were reclaimed on more than half of the site. One particularly impressive feature is the former collection pond that was transformed into a habitat for various aquatic animals, such as waterfowl, amphibians, turtles, and even water snakes. The property has a vegetable and herb garden—the only landscape feature that needs additional sources of water—as well as beehives.

The Novus headquarters, the building portion of which was designed by Forum Studio and built by Clayco, includes spaces designated as venues for outdoor meetings and offers employees opportunities to engage with the environment. Novus personnel monitor water quality and the butterfly population and can attend monthly bird walks. “It’s helped people to better utilize the outdoor spaces and encourages them to think about how they interact with the environment,” says Ellen Dierenfeld, Novus’s manager of global sustainability.

Some elements of the new headquarters, such as the office layout or the walking trail around the property’s perimeter, contribute to employee wellness, and the benefits aren’t just physical. “The aesthetics here help with stress relief,” Dierenfeld says. This is partly because every single employee can stand up at their workstation and see outside, and despite being CEO, Simmons has a workstation like everyone else. “We traded private space for public space,” Vondriska says.


Certification LEED Platinum, SITES 3 stars
Materials Recycled content including countertops that use recycled milk jugs
Energy 5,000-square-foot solar array, renewable energy credits, personalized workstation controls
Landscape Restoration of natural habitat, drought-resistant native vegetation, walking trails
Waste 98% of construction waste diverted from landfill

A higher quality of life

Employee wellness is an extension of Novus’s mission to help feed the world affordable, wholesome food and achieve a higher quality of life. “It ties directly to the overall mission of the company,” Dierenfeld says. “The company’s mission is to make a clear difference in sustainably meeting the growing global need for nutrition and health.”

To that end, the headquarters features a fully equipped gym and a number of exercise classes, while the on-site cafeteria offers a host of healthful options at no cost to employees. Employees have access to natural daylight through untinted glass (a curtain on a computerized timer controls that daylight as needed), and smoking is prohibited throughout the property. During construction, air quality was a significant focus, and Novus purchased renewable credits that accounted for 100 percent of energy used. The construction team diverted 98 percent of waste from landfills and reused 98 percent of the existing building.

Sustainability is an essential element of animal health and nutrition for Novus, whose products enhance efficiency and reduce carbon footprints by reducing animal waste, for example. “The only way we’re going to be able to produce enough food is with sustainable practices,” Vondriska says, explaining that the new headquarters allows Novus to promote important agricultural practices, such as slowing and filtering water runoff. Dierenfeld notes this synergy, explaining, “These same conservation principles are all part of sustainable agriculture as well.”